Hidden fees could mean you're paying 15-30 percent more for your apps

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, February 9, 2024
Hidden fees could mean you're paying more for your apps
Hidden fees in the Apple app store and Google Play store could mean you're paying 15-30% more for apps. Legislation aims to address this.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- You might be paying 15% to 30% more for the apps you download on your phone due to hidden app fees, an I-Team investigation found.

Right now downloading an app on your iPhone or Android might cost you more than app developers intended because some have to pay a commission to the Apple or Google Play.

U.S Senator Dick Durbin and supporters of a recent bill said they want to reduce those hidden fees by increasing competition.

If you've ever bought an app on your phone, critics say the price comes with some fees you don't even know you're paying.

"You're paying a 15% to 30% fee or hidden tax on things like music, streaming services or dating apps, or other online subscriptions. And you have no idea that you're paying," said Rick VanMeter of the Coalition for App Fairness, an industry trade group.

Companies like Apple and Google charge fees to businesses, generally 15% for a small business and up to 30% for a larger app developer, so when you buy their app, that extra fee is passed along to you.

However, Apple says 85% of developers pay no fee at all. Google Play's website says 97% of developers distribute apps on Google Play at no charge.

Right now, you can only download apps on iPhones and Androids through the Apple- or Google-owned app stores. But VanMeter said his advocacy group wants to open up the payment process to other third parties similar to the way you download apps on your computer.

"The biggest thing that our members and consumers want is competition," he said.

A bill to open the digital marketplace, called the Open App Markets Act, has been proposed with local support from Senator Durbin.

Durbin said he's working with politicians on both sides of the aisle to add more competition to the marketplace and added, "promoting competition in the app economy will provide more choices to users, improve the quality of users' experiences, and lower costs."

But Apple said commissions help to protect security and safety of consumers, and that legislation could pose a risk to customers. Apple said its app store blocks malware, which includes human review of every app and every app update, and that buying from a third party app fails to "prioritize data privacy and security."

The I-Team reached out to Google Play but did not receive a response.

This bill was originally introduced to congress in 2021 and sponsors say it could be re-introduced this year.